What does an Israeli-created James Bond-like character have in common with Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein?”
Probably not much, but the lack of commonality in subject matter presented no obstacle to the collaboration between Tel Aviv’s Hanut31 Theater and Pittsburgh’s Bricolage Production Company’s Midnight Radio.
What “Karate Man Patrick Kim” and “Frankenstein” do share is the manner in which their stories will be showcased as part of Pittsburgh’s International Festival of Firsts from Oct. 25 to 27 at the Bricolage Theater downtown. Both productions will be presented as old-fashioned radio plays, back to back, using Foley sound effects (everyday sound effects created by the actors) in front of a “live studio audience.”
The partnership between the two theater companies was first envisioned by Karla Boos, the artistic director of Quantum Theatre and guest curator of the festival, who saw Hanut31 perform “Patrick Kim” while she was in Tel Aviv scouting theater companies doing “progressive and wide-ranging work” to bring to Pittsburgh.
“I was looking from the get go for connections to local work, and I just thought how cool that across the globe there is this company that is in their way similar to our Bricolage,” Boos said. “I just thought it would be wonderful to introduce them to each other. They have completely different subject matter, and yet their point of departure is the same, and I envisioned both companies in one evening.
“So, it’s pretty short, it’s pretty funny, it’s one hour for each of them, and everybody has wine or something in the middle — it could be a fun mixing of cultures and I hope that is what we are going to see.”
The creative team members at Bricolage have been Skypeing with their counterparts in Tel Aviv and are looking forward to working together in person.
“We are kindred spirits in our sense of approach and in our sense of humor,” said Jeffrey Carpenter, artistic director and founder of Bricolage. “Hanut31 has a do-it-yourself spirit that we completely relate to. It’s ‘object theater,’ using what’s on hand to create a different way of looking at any given topic, which is the definition of Bricolage.”
Radio theater is a genre that is not embraced by many artists, and it is notable that a company halfway across the world has taken it on in a way similar to Bricolage, said Tami Dixon, co-founder and creative principal of Bricolage, and the story adaptor for its production of “Frankenstein.”
“It takes a certain kind of artist that gravitates to radio theater, someone with a more adventurist spirit and who is a risktaker,” she said. “In this kind of work, all we are creating is an audio experience, so we are depending on the audience to create the visual. To have that willingness to not have to deliver every single part of the experience is not for every company.”
Hanut31 was founded in 2010. It is a small, experimental theater company that has become “a lively place with unconventional artists,” said Hanut31 artistic consultant Shahar Marom, speaking by phone from Israel. “With Bricolage, we found another partner with the same interest.”
Although the show in Israel is performed in Hebrew with English supertitles, Hanut31’s actors have been practicing their American dialects, and will be performing “Patrick Kim” in English while in Pittsburgh.
This will be the theater company’s first visit to the United States.
The character of Patrick Kim may be unknown in the United States, but he is beloved in Israel.
“For us, Patrick Kim is like a treasure,” said Marom, explaining that the character was featured in a series of books published in Israel in the 1960s about a spy in America during the Cold War, and incorporating intrigue, karate fighting and sex.
“Taking this back to the States is funny,” Marom said. “He is a cliché character, and so lame. We had a lot of artistic liberty to take the show to the stage and not be so serious about it. People are coming and laughing a lot about the character, saying ‘I knew this character when I was a boy, he was a hero when I was a boy.’”
Marom said his creative team is “excited to see the reaction of the American public to our creation. We are wondering if they have the same humor, if they will laugh in the same places.”
Bricolage’s Frankenstein is a “straight up homage to Mary Shelley’s brilliance,” said Dixon. “It does not reference the film or other adaptations.” And while it works within the framework of the 1818 classic novel, Dixon has changed the narrative structure, introducing the character of Mary Shelley to “set the record straight about her story of Frankenstein.” PJC